314 posts categorized in "Wildlife"

By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

The beginning of November marks one of the biggest releases of the year at PAWS Wildlife Center, our Black-tailed deer release.

This year we cared for five deer throughout the spring and summer who all came to us in May as spotted fawns (pictured below, with ear tags used to identify individuals). These youngsters were all assumed to be orphaned as some were seen alone for more than 24 hours and others were found standing near their deceased mother or sibling.


Columbian Black-tailed deer are classified as a subspecies of the mule deer; their range is from southern Canada to central California and are found along the Pacific coast east to the Cascades.

They are the most common deer subspecies in Washington and are very similar in appearance to Rocky Mountain mule deer. However, black-tailed deer are smaller and have a broader tail that is completely covered with black hairs.

They are very adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats. Their main food source is browse (the growing tips of trees and shrubs) but they also eat fruit, nuts, acorns, fungi, and lichens.

Black-tailed deer are even adaptable in how they evade predators and have evolved several tactics in addition to hiding.

Their large ears and excellent vision help them detect danger from up to 1800 feet away. They will either leave the area before the predator gets too close or try to outmaneuver it. They do so by effectively using characteristics of the terrain such as boulders, steep slopes, ledges, trees, and deadfall to place obstacles between them and their predator.

They will also erratically change direction when being perused and they may even release a scent that alarms others triggering a group formation for protection.


Black-tailed deer breed during the fall and give birth in mid to late spring. During their first few weeks of life the fawns will be left alone for extended periods of time while their mother forages.

While alone the fawns lay flat and motionless, in a bed of grass, and their white spots camouflage them from predators. As they become stronger they feed alongside mom and are no longer dependent on her by the end of the summer.

While the deer are at PAWS our rehabilitators work very hard to raise them so that they don't become habituated. They do so by limiting all human contact to a minimum.

They have a specialized way to feed the deer formula, they spend many hours throughout the summer collecting and delivering browse, and making sure their enclosure is cleaned without direct contact with the fawns.

This takes a lot of hard work and seeing the deer released is a very meaningful event.

On November 6th the five deer they'd cared for all summer were released on large tracts of land far from people.

Our staff and volunteers looked on as the deer explored their new habitat and made their way deeper into the forest.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

By Caitlin Soden, Wildlife Volunteer Program Manager

It’s a pleasure to feature Jodi Gaylord this month! Jodi started volunteering for PAWS just three months ago but she dived right in and quickly became a vital part of the team. Her positive attitude and go get ‘em nature make her such a delight, so I jumped at the chance to find out about her experiences as a PAWS Wildlife Center volunteer.

Here’s what she had to say:


How did you come to volunteer for PAWS?
After we moved to Seattle last winter, my husband saw a call for PAWS volunteers in an online newspaper. Knowing how crazy I am about wildlife, he sent me link and I decided to see if PAWS’ philosophies gelled with my own.

What’s it like to be a volunteer with us?
BUSY! There is a lot to do and it always seems like we are racing the clock. With a few key exceptions (squirrels, anyone?), there is not a lot of hands-on animal handling. You have to check the urge to ooh and ahh at these wild patients so I also do a weekly shift at the Companion Animal Shelter.

With so many wonderful organizations to choose from why do you continue to support PAWS?
PAWS makes it easy to give something of yourself. Supporting an organization often means giving financial support, which is critical, but is never as personally fulfilling as I desire. Knowing that I play even a small part in the rehabilitation and release of a wild animal gives me a deep sense of satisfaction.

Is there anyone specific that has influenced your decision to continue volunteering?
Not any one person but an attitude. There is an atmosphere of “ask me anything” that permeates PAWS Wildlife Center. The staff are eager to share their knowledge and don’t look upon my curiosity as an intrusion.

What is the most fun you’ve had at PAWS Wildlife Center?
Cleaning the raccoon silos. Their intense curiosity makes them so much fun to observe. You can almost see their brains working as they explore their surroundings, including trying to figure out what that funny thing is we call a “broom” and attempting to catch raindrops in their paws.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
Appropriately enough, I am a wildlife and landscape photographer - my husband and I run City Escapes Nature Photography. Otherwise, I lead a pretty stereotypically-domesticated life. I read like crazy, knit, crochet and bake. I am learning to play an instrument and live to spoil my husband.

What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t have a pet! I grew up with many animals including goats, chickens and even a cockatiel that flew into our house and set up shop, but my husband is terribly allergic. I share my love of wildlife with him through our travels since you really shouldn’t be getting close enough to an elephant or polar bear for your allergies to kick in.

Inspired by Jodi? Become a PAWS volunteer today and help keep Washington State wildlife thriving!
No spare time to volunteer? There's another way you can help us continue helping wild animals in need. Donate now.
Find out more about wildlife rehabilitation at PAWS.

By Jennifer Convy & Jen Mannas, PAWS Wildlife Center

Fall is in full swing at PAWS and at this time of year we typically receive seabirds at our Wildlife Center.

Washington State’s hundreds of miles of coastline bordering Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean make it a great year round home for many seabird species. As seabirds move to their wintering habitats in the open ocean from Washington’s inland lakes, they form large feeding flocks in the open oceans. These flocks can be comprised of thousands of birds of various species, all susceptible to large storms, oil spills and obstacles such as fishing nets.

Gill-nets are commonly used in the Pacific Ocean to catch several species of fish including salmon and tuna. These nets are set at different depths in the water column to target certain species of fish and are extremely difficult to see in the water. Unfortunately this means that other species of wildlife, including seabirds and marine mammals can become entangled in these nets.


This is what happened recently to two adult Rhinoceros Auklets that were brought to our Wildlife Center on October 21st. Luckily for them the fisherman, or fisherwoman in this case, was able to remove the birds safely from the net and bring them to PAWS for care.

PAWS rehabilitation and veterinary staff examined the auklets shortly after their arrival to find no apparent injuries. Like all seabirds we care for, we then monitored the auklets in a pool enclosure to determine if their water proofing had been compromised in any way from the entanglement.

Seabirds have an intricate feather pattern responsible for their waterproofing qualities; enabling them to float properly, dive deep for feeding, evade danger and to stay dry and warm while in their aquatic environment. In order to maintain this complex waterproofing system seabirds regularly preen their feathers back into alignment each day. If anything such as a net or oil damages their feather patterns, and they are unable to realign their feathers into place quickly and easily, the feather waterproofing system is compromised and seabirds can get hypothermia resulting in either beaching themselves or drowning.

It is a common misunderstanding to assume all water birds can float just because they are seabirds or ducks, instead their floating success all depends on their waterproofing abilities.


After observing these auklets swimming and diving at PAWS we noticed that the waterproofing structure on their back feathers needed a bit more preening and realignment to ensure these birds would be successful post-release. They stayed at PAWS a few more days to allow them time to completely preen their feathers into place, eat well and be strong and ready for the cold ocean again.

After just 3 days in our care their feathers were back in tip-top shape and they were ready to swim free in Puget Sound once again, which is where they were released on October 24th.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for recovering wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

The end of April marks the start of baby raccoon season at PAWS.

When young raccoons first arrive at our wildlife center most are very small and their eyes are still closed. They are orphans who are too young to survive on their own and are still in need of care from mom.

Upon arrival each raccoon is examined by our rehabilitators. Those in need of medical attention are also examined by our veterinary team and treated for injuries or illness. Once they are deemed healthy they join their siblings in the nursery.

There are two raccoon nurseries at PAWS and they are both in full swing for the majority of the spring and into the summer. The young raccoons stay in the nurseries for a few weeks before being moved to an outside enclosure where they spend the remainder of their time with us.

The PAWS team cares for them with daily cleanings, feedings and by providing enrichment to stimulate their senses and their minds.


Raccoons remain with us through the summer and into the early fall when they are old enough for release. With collaboration and help from local agencies, suitable release sites are located.

These sites are especially chosen for raccoons, with a body of water nearby, plenty of space for them to roam and away from humans and other hazards like highways.

This year our first raccoon release took place at the end of September and by mid-October all 41 of our summer raccoon patients had been released back into the wild.

It is quite a sight watching these raccoons explore their new environment for the first time. Their heightened sense of touch allows them to experience the world a lot differently than many other mammalian species. This is very apparent as they leave the safety of their release carriers.

Raccoon Babies Feel World For First Time from PAWS on Vimeo.

They take their time and touch everything and some things they are touching for the very first time. After a while they make their way deeper into the safety of the forest and you can see the vegetation move from side to side as they navigate their way into their new surroundings.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for recovering wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

Every evening in a small neighborhood in Clinton, Washington a pair of Great Horned Owls can be heard amongst the trees calling to each other. One evening recently, the male decided to pick a very unfortunate spot to eat his freshly caught mouse.

He landed on a transformer on top of a power pole. This caught the eye of a resident on her nightly walk. She watched the owl peck at his meal when suddenly there was a loud bang and a flash of light. The next thing she saw was the owl falling to the ground.

She rushed over to see if he was still alive and found him sitting upright and very stunned. Concerned that he had some serious injuries she scooped him up in a towel and brought him to PAWS the next morning.


When the owl arrived at our Wildlife Hospital he didn’t have any obvious injuries but he was pale and dehydrated.

After the veterinarian team examined him they found that he had some bruising on his feet and possibly a detached retina. He was considered very lucky since there was no sign of an entry or exit point for the electrical charge he endured.

However, the main concern with this patient was how damaged his retina actually was and if he would be able to see well enough to hunt again. 

Eyesight as well as hearing are very important for owl survival. They must be able to hone in on their prey while hunting and accurately judge distance for striking.

Great Horned Owls primarily hunt from a perch at night and rely heavily on their eye sight to do so. They have extremely big eyes, even for an owl. Their pupils open widely and their retinas are predominately made of rods which help their eyes function effectively in low light.

The maximum effective hunting distance of a Great Horned Owl from an elevated perch is 300 feet. Pretty impressive don’t you think?

Luckily for this owl his eye injury was not serious. In just under 2 weeks he demonstrated to us that he was able to catch live prey, fly quietly and accurately, and was deemed ready for release.

We rode the evening ferry to Whidbey Island and returned him to the neighborhood he came from. Residents watched in excitement as he flew from his carrier and landed in a nearby tree where he called for his mate.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for recovering wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

Worried about power lines putting birds in your area at risk? Read about the Snohomish County Avian Protection Program.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

It’s that time of year again here in Seattle. The leaves are changing, there's a chill in the air, it’s getting dark earlier each day and the skies are full of birds heading to their wintering grounds.

This spectacular event is known as the fall migration. As the summer breeding season ends and the temperature drops birds begin their journey to warmer areas with more abundant food.

Washington State is part of the Pacific Flyway, which is one of the four major flyways in North America. The Pacific Flyway stretches over 4,000 miles south from the North Slope of Alaska to Western Mexico and over 1,000 miles between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.


Birds use this flyway as a super highway to their wintering grounds and have been doing so for thousands of years. It's estimated that at least one billion birds use the Pacific Flyway each fall comprising of over 350 different species.

During this migration hundreds of thousands of birds fly through the Seattle area on their way south. Many use this area as a stopover and will leave again when the weather gets colder.

However not all migratory birds go south for the winter.

Many species of seabirds and shorebirds breed in inland areas and will actually travel west to the coast to spend their winters.

Other species such as owls, who spend their summers up in the mountains, come down to lower altitudes during the winter where there is more food.

Pictured: Green Herons (top L) and Barn Swallows (top R) migrate south while Horned Grebes (bottom L) and Greater Yellowlegs (bottom R) migrate to Puget Sound from the interior of Washington.

Here at PAWS Wildlife Center we receive many of these migratory birds throughout the year. Some of them come in as orphaned baby birds in the spring and others as full grown adults who are sick or injured.

As with all of our patients, PAWS staff and volunteers try to treat and return these migratory birds back to the wild quickly. Releasing them before their natural migration ends is extremely important so they may join others of their kind on this great journey.

Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

On June 30th we received a small surprise at the Wildlife Center; a fluffy baby barn owl.


When he arrived he was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, weighed just over 2 ounces, and his eyes were still closed.

The finder brought him to us after repeatedly trying to reunite him with his mother, who was sitting in a nest box made of steel beams 14 feet up in the top of a horse arena.

After the third fall from the nest, she decided to bring him to PAWS for help.

We typically try to reunite young raptors with their parents as quickly as possible, as it's always better for them to be raised by their parents. But, in some circumstances, this isn’t possible.

After talking to the finder about the nest site, it was clear that putting the owlet back again would not help his survival. The nest was not in a great location and another owlet had already fallen from the nest but did not survive.


So, we decided to care for this owlet with the intention to release him back into the wild as a sub-adult.

Raising a baby raptor is no easy task. Staff members became his surrogate parents, feeding him several times a day.

He spent the first few weeks of his life in our bird nursery allowing us to monitor his progress and growth.

When he was feeding on his own and big enough to walk around, he was moved outside to his own enclosure.

His care and feeding was then the responsibility of our volunteers who wore a sheet when they entered his enclosure to keep him from becoming habituated.

Habituated animals become gradually used to situations they would normally steer away from. This type of behavior is dangerous for both humans and the animal.

If an animal becomes too used to people or depends on them for food they could become nuisances or dangerous to humans and in turn jeopardizing the animal itself.

It is very important that the animals at our Wildlife Center do not become habituated, so they can return to the wild and be active members of their population.

Our staff and volunteers did a great job with this little owl. He acted just like a wild barn owl should by showing threat displays and flying around when people entered his enclosure.

After 87 days in our care and weighing in at 1.2 pounds, he was deemed ready for release.

Just after sunset on September 25th, he was returned to an area near the horse arena where he hatched. When we left him he was perched in a small tree waiting to hunt under the shadow of night.

Watch his first few moments of freedom:

Follow us on Instagram for more great behind the scenes moments.

Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

We've received quite a few patients at the Wildlife Center this summer who've been injured by being struck by vehicles. One such case was a bald eagle brought to us back in July.

Since bald eagles are opportunistic foragers they take advantage of whatever prey species are available. In most regions of the country fish is their main source of food but they will prey on small mammals and birds.


They're also scavengers who sometimes feed on carrion on the side of the road, making them susceptible to being hit by vehicles.

That is what landed this eagle in our wildlife hospital, the only wildlife rehabilitation center in Washington State equipped with immediate and continual veterinary expertise and services. 

He was found on the side of the road and brought to us at PAWS. He was mildly dehydrated, anemic, weak, and had a mild wing droop. But unlike other patients hit by vehicles, he did not have any broken bones.

Luckily for him this meant his road to recovery would not be as difficult.

He was kept in our ward under observation for four days, where he proved he could eat on his own, before moving outside to a small raptor enclosure.

As his anemia improved and he regained strength he was ready to move to our large flight pen. He spent the remainder of his time in the flight pen, flying between perches and gaining the strength he'd need to catch prey when he became wild once again.


Well, his day finally came on September 12th when he was transported to the south side of Lake Sammamish and released with the help of the Washington State Parks Department.

After leaving his carrier he did a victory circle above our heads before flying off into the distance. Another inspiring and happy day in the life of PAWS Wildlife Center!

Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

By Caitlin Soden, Wildlife Volunteer Program Manager

I'm so excited to feature Dale Ripley for the first edition of our new Volunteer Spotlight blog series! A retired oceanographic engineer, Dale has been a volunteer at PAWS Wildlife Center for almost three years and he's an invaluable member of our team.

#1 Wildlife, Dale Ripley Sept 16 2014

Feeding squirrels or building new and improved animals enclosures, you never know where you’ll find Dale but you do know he’ll be hard at work while still managing to keep the wildlife staff and volunteers enthralled and entertained by countless stories of his many trips around the world.

I recently sat down with Dale to talk about his experiences as a Wildlife Center volunteer. Here’s what he had to say:

How did come to volunteer for the PAWS Wildlife Center?
I was initially interested in the PAWS Companion Animal Shelter where I could learn about different breeds of dog before I adopted one of my own. I attended a New Volunteer Orientation, learned about the Wildlife Center and that was that.

What was your first impression when you came to the Wildlife Center?
Abject Fear!! As an engineer, I was used to working with tools and instruments and suddenly I was being asked to work with live animals. I remember being a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of it all but the staff reassured me it would all get easier eventually. And it did!

What’s it like to be a Wildlife Center volunteer?
Very rewarding! It’s cliché but true is true. We all come here to help animals. They can’t do it on their own so someone’s got to do it.

What have you learned as a Wildlife Center volunteer that you wish other people knew?
Not every animal you see on the ground needs help and there are a ton of resources out there to help you know when they do. Bottom line… call us here at the Wildlife Center so we can help.

With so many wonderful organizations to choose from why do you continue to support PAWS?
I got hooked my first day!


Is there anyone specific that has influenced your decision to continue volunteering?
Everyone! The staff and volunteers at the Wildlife Center are fantastic and easy to work with. Everyone is here for the same reason; we want to help animals. That makes it easy to overlook differences.

How does volunteering at the Wildlife Center make you feel?

What is the most fun you’ve had at the PAWS Wildlife Center?
Catching squirrels up for release back into the wild. Four adults, 12 squirrels… it was a battle of wits!

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
Woodworking, watersports…I used to be a SCUBA diver and now I love to snorkel in Puget Sound.

What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
How old I am! 66!

Thank you for everything you do! Oh, and Dale, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Inspired by Dale? Become a PAWS volunteer today and help keep Washington State wildlife thriving!
No spare time to volunteer? There's another way you can help us continue helping wild animals in need. Donate now.
Find out more about wildlife rehabilitation at PAWS.

By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

Over the past few weeks we have received some special patients at PAWS Wildlife Center, baby Northern Flying Squirrels.


You may not even be aware that these fuzzy little creatures live in Washington. They are rarely seen due to being strictly nocturnal and arboreal (they live in trees).

There are two species and two subspecies of flying squirrels found in the United States. The species that inhabits Washington is the Northern Flying Squirrel. This species can be found throughout most of the northern part of North America, Canada and as far east as North Carolina.

The Southern Flying Squirrel can be found in the eastern US and Mexico. The two subspecies of flying squirrel live in the Appalachians and are endangered due to habitat loss.

Flying squirrels don’t actually fly like bats or birds do; instead they are specialized gliders. They are able to glide due to a special membrane that connects their front and back legs.

To get from one tree to another the flying squirrel will launch itself off of a high branch, spread out its limbs and use its legs to steer and its tail as a brake. The average distance a flying squirrel can cover in one glide is 65 feet but they can take long glides of over 250 feet. Pretty impressive don’t you think?

Like other squirrel species, flying squirrels live on a diet of acorns, fruit, buds, sap, insects and bird eggs. But what separates them from the other squirrels is a large portion of their diet is lichens and fungi, making them an important disperser of fungal spores.


Flying squirrels like to nest in spruce, fir, hemlock, and beech maple trees. They use their nests for raising young in the spring and summer and as a den in the winter. Unlike other mammals, flying squirrels do not hibernate in the winter and will even share their nests with their extended family to keep warm.

The flying squirrel babies we have at PAWS came to us after falling from their nests, and are being cared for by our staff in the small mammal nursery. They will be cared for here and released in a few weeks, back to where they came from, in hopes they can be reunited with their family groups.

Flying squirrel fun fact: Flying squirrels have the ability to glide across four-lane highways without touching the ground!

Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS Wildlife Center.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.